Global UCF Hosts Breakfast with President Dale Whittaker
On Monday, November 5th, 2018 Global UCF hosted “Breakfast with the President.” 16 outstanding Global UCF students attended to have breakfast with President Dale and his wife, Mary Whittaker. The cohorts in attendance comprised of all majors, classes, and a diverse representation of countries around the world. The event took place in our lounge area commonly known as “The Fishbowl,” at 9 a.m., with catering provided by UCF Dining Services.
To break the ice, our Managing Director, Lisa Beeson, introduced President Whittaker and his wife Mary to our students, then opened the floor for a discussion. The conversation centered around our students’ experiences at Global UCF as well challenges they face when seeking post-graduation opportunities. Our former cohorts, now juniors and seniors, took the lead on asking questions about career opportunities for international students. For example, Geoffrey Amankwah, a finance major from Ghana who is interning at Verizon Wireless asked President Whittaker, “Do you think a program can be created to give students the opportunity to showcase their value to employers, which can be used as an incentive to determine whether the student is a fit?”
After listening carefully, President Whittaker expanded on the role UCF can play in preparing international students for traditional and domestic jobs while making a note of employment sponsorship that’s required of a company when working with international talent, and what’s in it for them. He suggested UCF develop a target list of the companies that have existing partnerships with UCF and have an interest in working with international talent, to better assist when an international student is ready. Noora Dawood, an Electrical Engineering major, from the United Arab Emirates also explained the importance of practical experience prior to graduating. Noora came across internship opportunities relating to business, economics, and finance, but found it difficult to discover opportunities that are specific to her vocation in the power distribution industry and available to international students.
“From what I’m hearing, the university could be less passive and more active in not only seeking those companies but educating the companies that are already loyal to UCF as well.” President Whittaker demonstrated understanding and empathy when responding to the questions and concerns that our students were voicing.
The conversation continued with Mary Whittaker advising our students to take advantage of the resources available through the university, especially in the realm of health and wellness. “When speaking of inclusion, health, and wellness, I have found the Recreation and Wellness Center’s programs great for outdoor activities such as kayaking and camping, to get to know the area beyond campus and putting yourselves out there physically.” Mary also emphasized the importance of a balanced diet, a good night sleep and exercising; she advised our students to participate in wellness courses that will help them remain physically active and enhance their performance in the classroom.
Mary then transitioned the conversation by inquiring about our students’ experience at UCF, their eating habits and way of life. Many of our students praised the university for providing on-campus opportunities through the Career Services job tool – Handshake. Some of our students detailed their meal plans with Dining Services, but Geoffrey jokingly chimed in by saying, “it all depends what stage you are in; you may reach a point in which you start cooking for yourself, but you want to go to Blaze Pizza once you reach your junior year”. The entire group of students laughed at his candid humor.
“Do you have opportunities to share your culture or something that’s important to you?” asked Mary. Our newer cohort, Sofia Marroquin, explained that she’s only been here for three months but experienced culture shock in a positive way. “A lot of the domestic students are not aware of the range of international students that are a part of UCF, but they reacted very welcoming and were nice to me”. Sofia added that Global UCF has been a great resource in her cultural association process with the resources available to her to support her finding her place at the university.
President Whittaker concluded the discussion with a heartfelt statement about each student’s journey and finding his or her place in the world. “Every pioneer group in a culture, you as international students are a pioneer group, must draw energy from each other. Think of UCF as your battery, but it’s not where your extreme learning will happen. Your learning will happen when you go out there and find someone very different from yourself. The unique thing about UCF is that you will find someone like you regardless of where you are from, but you may have a roommate that is the total opposite of who you are – that’s where your greatest learning will happen”.
Our students thank President Whittaker for sharing time with them in this video: